Old Pasadena & Civic Center Architectural Walk

Apr 17, 2009

This weekend’s architectural walk, which comes from the pages of Hometown Pasadena (the book), is a walk through Old Pasadena to the Civic Center. We’d recommend doing this walk first thing in the morning, before the shoppers and slow-walkers fill the sidewalks.

Old Pasadena Historic District & Civic Center
castlegreenturretYou’ll never stop locals from calling it Old Town, but the powers-that-be tell us the official name is Old Pasadena Historic District – so then, Old Town it is.

Pasadena’s original business district began at the intersection of Fair Oaks Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. Though a new shopping area developed on South Lake with the opening of Bullocks in the late 1940s, and Old Town languished in the ‘70s, revitalization turned it into one of Southern California’s leading destinations. (They don’t readily admit it, but refugees from L.A.’s westside have been known to make the trek east.) The Norton Simon Museum on Colorado at Orange Grove is a great place to start a walk, heading east through Old Town. Continuing farther east, by foot or by car, you’ll find the adjacent Civic Center and Playhouse District, where Pasadena’s cultural expansion took hold in the 1920s. And eyes up for the wonderful post-war neon signage for Zinke’s Shoe Repair (at 592 East Colorado Boulevard, at least until it’s torn down for condos).

Norton Simon Museum (1969)
411 W. Colorado Blvd.
Designed by the architectural firm of Ladd & Kelsey, this acclaimed art museum had its interior renovated by Frank Gehry from 1996 to 1999.

Hotel Green (1898)
99 S. Raymond Ave.
Known today as Castle Green, this was the second building of a lavish 19th-century resort built in the Moorish style to house wealthy Easterners who fled their winter homes for a more temperate climate. The enclosed bridge that now ends at a small tower once crossed Raymond to connect with the first building in the Hotel Green complex. The architect was Frederick Roehrig.

Saint Andrew Catholic Church (1927)
311 N. Raymond Ave.
This exceptionally beautiful church is said to have been modeled on the ancient Basilica of St. Sabina in Rome. Marble pillars– each unique– line the length of the church. The church’s modest proportions make its powerful yet tranquil presence all the more noteworthy.

YWCA Building (1920)
Marengo Ave. & Holly St.
This Julia Morgan design was commissioned by Mary Gamble (of the Gamble House) to be emblematic of Pasadena’s concern for women in need of shelter and support. It’s in terrible disrepair now, and Pasadena Heritage is helping in efforts to find a buyer who will restore it.

Pasadena City Hall (1927)
100 N. Garfield Ave.
The cornerstone of the Civic Center, this imposing example of the Mediterranean style was translated to fit its California setting by the San Francisco architectural firm of Bakewell and Brown. The impressive circular tower rises six stories and is topped by a dome, which is in turn topped by a cupola that is finally topped by an urn and ball. The building recently underwent a top-to-bottom seismic and green retrofit and is more gorgeous than ever.

Pasadena Public Library (1927)
285 E. Walnut St.
This library, with an interior as rich as its exterior is dignified, was designed in the Spanish Renaissance style by the architectural firm of Myron Hunt and H. C. Chambers.

Linden Optometry (1927)
469-483 E. Colorado Blvd.
The striking green glazed-tile exterior is a glorious expression of art deco in a commercial building. This building originally housed exclusive shops that catered to the wealthy winter resort crowd.

Pacific Asia Museum (1924)
46 N. Los Robles Ave.
Now we have come to the Playhouse District, and one of the first things we find is a Chinese palace designed by Marston, Van Pelt and Maybury, one of the premier Pasadena architectural firms of the day. It served originally as residence and art gallery for Grace Nicholson.

Pasadena Playhouse (1925)
35-39 S. El Molino Ave.
Architect Elmer Grey designed this Spanish Colonial Revival structure, which has had a dramatic life, as befits a theater. It was falling into decrepitude and remained closed from 1969 to 1975, when it was purchased by the city and revived for a successful third act. Bravo!

1 Response for “Old Pasadena & Civic Center Architectural Walk”

  1. I call it both: Town & Pasadena.
    But, I prefer to just call it Tourist Pasadena.



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